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How Does Refrigerant Work in an Air Conditioner?

Spring is here, and among the other duties and tasks you need to perform for your home (such as spring cleaning and changing the batteries in the smoke alarms) comes the need to give your air conditioner a close look. You may not be using it often now, but in just a few weeks, it will likely see daily use and more. Now is a good time to schedule a maintenance session for your air conditioner: allowing a trained technician to take a close look and fix any problems before they get out of hand

Among the issues the technician checks for is the refrigerant levels in your system, and whether any refrigerant has leaked out of the system. There are a lot of misconceptions about refrigerant in your air conditioning system, and how it works to keep your home cool. Understanding that is key to understanding just how your system keeps your home cool.

It’s Not Consumed

One of the most common misconceptions about refrigerant is that your air conditioner consumes it, much the way a car consumes gasoline or oil. That’s a logical assumption, but it’s also incorrect. Theoretically, refrigerant levels in your system should never go down. They occupy a closed loop, circulating through a series of valves and coils that make air conditioning possible.

The cycle works like this: Refrigerant begins in gaseous form before being subjected to a great deal of pressure. Heat bleeds off of it, shifting it to liquid form, and the excess heat is vented outside your home. The pressurized, liquid refrigerant then passes through a valve that releases a set amount of liquid refrigerant into a series of expansion coils. There, it expands, shifting back into gaseous form and pulling heat from the air around the coils in the process. The cooled air can then be blown into your house with a fan. The gaseous refrigerant then returns to the front of the cycle to continue the process.

Leaks Cause Problems

Refrigerant isn’t supposed to leak, but it happens. When it does, the delicate balance that your system requires is thrown off. Frost and ice form on the coils, which both represent lost cooling potential, and which form a barrier between the remaining refrigerant and the air it needs to cool. This increases the strain on the system considerably, as well as accelerating the formation of ice and frost on the coils. The added strain will raise your bills and increase the risk of breakdowns elsewhere in the system.

That’s why it’s vital for refrigerant leaks to be sealed and refrigerant recharged to its prescribed levels. (The exact amount and type of refrigerant depends on the make and model of your air conditioner.) That is usually much less expensive than the cost of letting the system simply leak refrigerant, and because refrigerant can be toxic if handled improperly, you need a trained professional to do the job: which can be included as part of a regular maintenance session.

Call Earthwise Home Services for air conditioning maintenance services throughout McKinney, TX!

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